Foes, supporters turn out for first hearing on Longview coal terminal

LONGVIEW — Foes of a proposed Longview coal terminal dressed in red and outnumbered supporters wearing blue on Tuesday as about 2,000 people showed up during six hours of public hearings.

The two sides expressed their views vigorously but stayed civil during testimony and rallies, The Daily News of Longview reported.

“Coal is poison,” declared a sign on a 12-foot-tall inflatable globe outside the Cowlitz Expo Center. Inside, a majority of about 150 speakers opposed the terminal, urging state, federal and Cowlitz County regulators to conduct a broad environmental review of Millennium Bulk Terminals’ proposal for a $643 million coal export dock.

Four buses brought terminal opponents in from out of town for the evening meeting, the newspaper reported. However most of the speakers, drawn by lottery, were from the county. Participants on both sides handed their tickets to pre-determined speakers in what seemed an effort to focus on local voices.

Supporters said the proposed rail dock can handle coal safely and cleanly while creating 135 permanent jobs and 2,000 construction jobs.

“Our site is very clean, and we as employees keep it that way,” Millennium employee Dixie Dailey said.

Foe Dawson Dunning traveled to Longview from the eastern Montana ranch his family owns near a proposed coal mine. He’s concerned that the terminal will create demand that will hurt his business.

“Longview is connected to Montana ranches because the coal that comes from our backyard ends up on your doorstep,” he said.

Opponents are concerned about dust and traffic congestion locally and the effect of burning coal globally.

Ambre Energy wants to ship coal from Montana and Wyoming to markets in Asia. Four other hearings on the Longview project are planned in the next month at Spokane, Pasco, Vancouver and Tacoma.

Two other Northwest coal export terminals are under consideration — another rail terminal near Bellingham and a barge terminal on the Columbia River near Clatskanie, Ore.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a Tuesday hearing. Cowlitz County and the state Department of Ecology followed with an evening session. Millennium and terminal opponents used the hour between the sessions for rallies.

“I love Longview and I’ve been involved in historic preservation so I know the importance of industry,” Doris Disbrow said as she stood on a sidewalk in her red anti-coal shirt and waved at cars. She says she didn’t put an anti-coal sign in her yard until she made up her mind two weeks ago.

“If it was 2,000 jobs I’d be all for it, but not for 130,” she said, adding, “I’m not against development and jobs, but I don’t want coal jobs.”

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Information from: The Daily News, http://www.tdn.com

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